Monthly Archives: September 2016

New Bacteria Linked to Tattoo Infections

An investigation into skin lesions that two people developed after getting tattoos has concluded that both were infected with a bacteria not previously linked to the practice.

The infections involved Mycobacterium haemophilum, which usually only strikes individuals whose immune system are compromised. In this instance, however, the patients, both from Seattle, developed rashing despite the fact that both had normal immune systems, a report on the investigation found.

“Two people developed chronic skin infections after receiving tattoos at the same parlor,” explained study lead author Dr. Meagan K. Kay from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The patrons were thought to have been exposed through use of tap water during rinsing and diluting of inks.”

Kay, an epidemic intelligence service officer with the CDC, and her team report their findings in the September issue of the CDC’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The authors pointed out that tattooing is not considered a sterile procedure, is not regulated at the federal level and can be risky. And while the specific inks and colorings (pigments) commonly used to apply tattoos are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the rules usually apply only when cosmetics or color additives are involved.

The latest concern about associated infection risk arose in 2009 when a 44-year-old man and a 35-year-old man sought care for skin infections that had developed at the site of tattoos acquired at a facility in the Seattle region.

Lesion cultures and lab testing revealed that M. haemophilum was the culprit in the case of the first patient. Skin evaluations and patient interviews led the researchers to conclude that the second man most probably also suffered from the same sort of bacterial infection, although they technically classified his situation as a “suspected case.”

A follow-up investigation of the tattoo parlor revealed that municipal water had been used to dilute the ink during the tattooing process.

Water is considered to be a source for M. haemophilum. And though the facility was cleared of any safety violations, and no M. haemophilum bacteria was found in analyzed water samples, the tattoo operators were told to use sterile water for all future tattoo applications.

“It is important to remember that tattooing is not a sterile procedure and infections can occur after tattoo receipt,” Kay said. “Measures should be taken by tattoo artists to prevent infections, including proper training, use of sterile equipment, and maintaining a clean facility. Use of tap water during any part of the tattoo procedure should be avoided,” she explained.

“Those who suspect an infection in their tattoo should consult with their doctors,” she added. “Common infections can present as increased redness, warmth, swelling, pain and discharge.”

Myrna L. Armstrong, professor emeritus at the school of nursing at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, said the investigation serves to highlight the general risks of getting a tattoo.

“This is an invasive procedure. And there’s basically no regulation in force. Or very sporadic regulation. So as someone who’s been looking into tattoos and body piercing for more than 20 years, I would say that it’s really not very surprising that this can happen,” Armstrong said.

“So while I’m not being negative to the industry, I do think that the customer does need to be aware of the situation he or she is getting into,” she added. “Shop around, review people’s techniques, and make sure [you] really want to have this done.”

Cervical cancer death rates are higher than previously thought

The risk of dying from cervical cancer may be much higher than experts previously believed – particularly among older and black women, according to a new study.

Black women in the US are dying from the disease at a rate 77 percent higher and white women at a rate 47 percent higher, according to the study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Previous estimates didn’t account for women whose cervixes were removed in hysterectomies, which eliminate the risk of developing the cancer, according to the study published Monday in the journal Cancer.

“Prior calculations did not account for hysterectomy because the same general method is used across all cancer statistics,” said Anne Rositch, assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins and lead author of the study.

That method is to gauge the impact of cancer across a total population without accounting for factors outside of gender, she said, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, many women who are dying are over age of 65, a cutoff point where guidelines no longer recommend women be regularly screened for cervical cancer.

Last year, there were about 12,990 new cases of cervical cancer and 4,120 deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“This is a preventable disease and women should not be getting it, let alone dying from it,” Rositch said. “Since the goal of a screening program is to ultimately reduce mortality from cervical cancer, then you must have accurate estimates within the population targeted by those programs — adult women with a cervix.

“These findings motivate us to better understand why, despite the wide availability of screening and treatment, older and black women are still dying from cervical cancer at such high rates in the United States,” she said.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on US cervical cancer deaths from 2000 to 2012, from the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results databases.

The data were limited to just 12 states, but the researchers said they still provided a nationally representative sample of women.

The researchers also collected data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System on how many women 20 and older reported ever having a hysterectomy.

Before hysterectomies were taken into account, the data showed that cervical cancer killed about 5.7 out of 100,000 black women and 3.2 per 100,000 white women.

After adjusting for hysterectomies, the rate was 10.1 per 100,000 black women and 4.7 per 100,000 white women.

“We can’t tell from our study what might be contributing to the differences in cervical cancer mortality by age and race,” Rositch said. “Now that we have a better understanding of the magnitude of the problem, we have to understand the reasons underlying the problem.”

Cervical cancer is highly preventable because screening tests and a vaccine to prevent human papilloma virus, or HPV, which can cause the disease, are both available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Racial disparity may be explained by lack of access or limited access to cervical cancer screening programs among black women, when compared to whites,” said Dr. Marcela del Carmen, a gynecologic oncologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, who was not involved in the new study, CNN reported.

“This gap and disparity need to be addressed with initiatives focusing on better access to prevention or screening programs, better access to HPV vaccination programs and improved access and adherence to standard of care treatment for cervical cancer,” she said.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women begin cervical cancer screenings at age 21 by having a pap test every three years. Then, beginning at age 30, they should have a pap test combined with a HPV test every five years.

Rat Virus Strikes 8 People in Illinois and Wisconsin

 virus rarely seen in the United States recently infected eight people in Wisconsin and Illinois who were working in facilities where pet rats are bred, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Authorities first became aware of the infections when two people in Wisconsin who operated a rat-breeding facility fell ill in December 2016, with one going to the hospital. Both breeders tested positive for Seoul virus, which is part of the Hantavirus family , a group of viruses that typically infect rodents, the CDC said.

Health officials then discovered that the Wisconsin breeders had purchased rats from two rat-breeding facilities in Illinois, and tests showed that six people who worked at the Illinois facilities were infected with the same virus.

The Seoul virus is known to infect a species of rat called the Norway rat (also known as the brown rat ) all over the world. Sometimes, people can catch Seoul virus from rats. So far, most human cases of Seoul virus have occurred in Asia. This is the first time that human Seoul virus cases have been linked with pet rats in the United States, the CDC said.

People become infected with Seoul virus when they are bitten by infected rats, or when they come into contact with the blood, saliva or urine of infected rats, the agency said.

The virus cannot spread from person to person, and “therefore, the general public is at extremely low risk,” from these cases, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), said in a statement . “Out of an abundance of caution, we want to let the public know in the event they have recently purchased rats from an affected facility and become ill.”

The CDC is working to determine if anyone else who bought the rats has become infected with Seoul virus, and to make sure that any rats that are infected are not distributed from the facilities, the agency said.

People who become infected with the Seoul virus can develop fever, severe headaches, back and abdominal pain, chills, blurred vision, red eyes, or a rash, the CDC said. But some people infected with the virus don’t show any symptoms. All eight people infected in the current outbreak have recovered, and five out of the six people in Illinois who tested positive for the virus did not show symptoms, the IDPH said. Rats infected with the virus do not typically show symptoms.

People who may have purchased rats from the affected breeders should contact their local state or health departments, the CDC said.

To avoid catching an infection from rats, the CDC said that people can take the following precautions with their pets:

  • Wash your hands after touching or feeding pet rats, or cleaning their cages.
  • Make sure pet rats are properly secured (in a cage) so they don’t contaminate surfaces in your home.
  • If possible, clean rodent cages and rodent pet supplies outside of your house, and never clean the animals’ cages or supplies in your kitchen or other areas where you prepare food.
  • Avoid bites and scratches from rodents .
  • Take your pet to a veterinarian for routine care to keep the animal healthy and disease-free.